Dr Nik Johnson described Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority as being on “life support” when he took over as Mayor in May 2021, which he believes contributed to his heart problems that forced him to stand aside for 3 months. The mayor was speaking today following a code of conduct hearing by the audit and governance committee of the Combined Authority.
At the conclusion of the hearing, he also gave a personal apology adding that “I regret having been the cause of upset and I apologise unreservedly for those I gave reason to complain”.
A four-man panel set up to rule on an investigator’s report into allegations against Dr Johnson said it would not be publishing the report itself but would issue a decision notice shortly.
Oral apology at conclusion of conduct hearing by @CambsPboroCA into @NikJohnsonCA – 2 year investigation points to HR issues and apologies needed personally to one or two complainants. Full report will stay under wraps – conduct hearings often require that pic.twitter.com/1UwDHcOIWq
— John Elworthy (@johnelworthy) November 14, 2023
John Pye, the sub committee chair, said it would also be presenting a report to the Combined Authority board.
He also said the sub committee had decided to ask the Mayor to provide a written apology and for him to consult with the monitoring officer about the “appropriateness” of him writing to one or more of the complainants by the end of the week.
Mr Pye said his committee had also decided to “ask the Mayor for an undertaking not to repeat this behaviour and agree with the chief executive officer appropriate development and training in the next 6 months particularly to include HR practice when acting in a senior member role”.
The hearing also said it would recommend to the Combined Authority board that it reviews and improves induction process when new mayors take office.
And he would ask the audit and governance committee to review the constitution in regard to the lessons learnt from this inquiry and to provide recommendations to the Combined Authority board.
Mr Pye said Mayor Johnson had asked to make an oral apology, too, at this stage.
Mayor Johnson said it was the first time he had been able to speak publicly about the code of conduct hearing but “first and foremost an apology.
“I have had a lot of time to reflect and realized much of it needed have done, I regret having been the cause of upset and I apologize unreservedly for those I gave reason to complain
“I am sorry, and I have wanted to say so for ages – I wish I knew then what I know now.”
— John Elworthy (@johnelworthy) November 14, 2023
He said: “I am a better person for what has gone on and I would argue a better mayor
“I wish the organisation we were part of then is as now, so much better in every conceivable way
“I say that because I genuinely believe all of these improvements began back then and I can only hope real and public progress made since provides something in way of solace
“Just over a year ago I shared some very personal news about health and it a year to the day I was awaiting cardiac surgery in Papworth which I meant I had to stand away from my mayoral role
“Doctor or not I am in no doubt that being a relative newcomer and inheriting an organisation I saw of being in desperate need of life support were substantial contributors to my becoming unwell.
“Happily, At the time I was about to take medical leave the arrival of new senior staff and full establishment of an improved board gave me confidence I was leaving things in safe hands which was doubly fortunate as my situation got very challenging and I needed taking a lot more time off than I expected.”
Dr Johnson said: “In truth it wasn’t always clear that I would be coming back; don’t get me wrong, I wanted to, the mind was definitely willing, perhaps the body not so much
“That plus a few very well-meaning people suggesting stepping away for good may not be such a bad idea gave me a lot to think about
“In the end it was an easy choice made easier by unwavering support of my family and friends all of whom know me as someone who doesn’t give up easily, doesn’t; walk away from responsibility and who for becoming mayor has been one of the proudest achievements of my professional life.”
He said: “I came back because also in not doing so would have denied those who for whom I caused upset the opportunity to have their say, air their grievance and seek resolution
“As I said to the board in May of last year transparency, scrutiny and accountability are essential
“As the Combined Authority we must go above and beyond the standards expected of us and any of us who fall short must be seen to take responsibility for their actions
“I am sorry and do apologize and can only through my words today and my actions since those difficult times two years ago, those to whom I am apologizing can accept that I mean it.”
To say it was a baptism of fire might be an understatement – as has been amply demonstrated Mayor Johnson experienced a torrid few months after his surprise election that spread well into the following year.
It led to resignations (including that of one chief executive Eileen Milner who having taken on the £200,000 role in July 2021, left 8 months later and with a payoff of £169,000) and a whistleblower complaint over use of procurement cards and allegations directed at the alleged behaviour of Mayor Johnson’s chief adviser Nigel Pauley
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